We recently watched Frozen 2, and my ears perked when I heard Anna sing, "Do the Next Right Thing." That phrase has been a bit of a mantra for me the past five years. I first heard it from the late Elisabeth Elliot. I used to regularly read her daily devotional, and when I read her encouragement to "do the next thing", I felt more equipped to face the demands of life. It was really helpful during my husband's first deployment to Afghanistan when I felt overwhelmed with two littles under two. I remember telling myself, "Stef, just do the next right thing." It helped me thrive and not just survive during his second deployment, too. Even today as I juggle homeschooling, working from home, serving in our chapel, and everything related to homemaking, I frequently tell myself to "do the next right thing".
Because here's the thing: when I'm overwhelmed, I often don't want to do anything. I see the numerous tasks before me, and I feel paralyzed. Ever have mountains of laundry to wash, fold, and put away? The task can seem so monumental that it paralyzes you (and you're left with piles for days). When I'm exhausted, I usually don't want to do anything. I want to mindlessly scroll on social media or lounge on the couch and watch Netflix. I don't want to tend to hearts during sibling squabbles or do the dishes after dinner. This tendency continues when I'm anxious. I often want to sleep away the worries rather than pray or seek counsel. In these moments of overwhelm, exhaustion, and anxiety, I have found it helpful to have a simple nugget of encouragement that pops into me head and reminds me to keep going.
It's a helpful life principle – not a promise that life will ease up, but a principle that helps us live more disciplined. But we have to ask: what is the right thing? For believers, the Word of God provides the unchanging standard for right and wrong. Sin is sin. However, in the gray areas that are matters of personal conscience (see Romans 14), we have the Holy Spirit to guide us. But we are called to "walk by faith" (2 Cor. 5:7) and "walk by the Spirit" (Gal. 5:16) – to do the right thing – at all times. This doesn't mean we ignore our overwhelming feelings, anxiety, and physical needs. Instead, we are invited to lean into His grace, moment by moment. We need His grace to do the right thing – to die to self and to lead lives of obedience.
It's funny how a children's film can make you ponder the nature of the Christian life. Anna sang this song at a moment of crisis, and I admire her ability to "do the next right thing" in the midst of her grief. (Side note: she's the real hero of Frozen 2, in my opinion!) I pray that we are people who choose to do the right thing in moments of crisis as well. But more than that, I pray that we are people who do the right thing in the countless inglorious moments that make up most of our days. Isn't that our reality? Our days are full of work, inside and outside the home. Many of the tasks that fill our days seem non-spiritual: doing the dishes, making meals, preparing snacks, changing diapers, driving from place to place for errands and activities, etc. The majority of us are in vocations that are not religious by any means. Even still, we can do the right thing, and not only that, we can bring Him glory and experience fullness of joy. We can lead lives of quiet faithfulness. How stunning is such a life in a world full of noise!
While there were aspects in Frozen 2 that I didn't like, I appreciated the opportunity to have a conversation with my 6-year old (who has been singing the songs non-stop!). We talked about who we ought to admire and imitate. More than imaginary powers, we talked about the impact of someone doing the right thing (even when it's hard!). We even talked about how we can choose to do the right thing every day, which is living in obedience to God and His Word.
This is the Christian life – a life of surrender. A life of submission. A countercultural life. A joyful life. A life of true freedom and joy and contentment. A life sustained, moment by moment, by the amazing grace of God. This is what I want to teach by example to my children as I strive to "do the next right thing" in my mothering. May they see me live out the encouragement in this old poem where this phrase originated (second and third stanzas) and do the same:
Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, and guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, do the next thing
Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe 'neath His wing,
Leave all results, do the next thing.